For the record, once a cheater, not always a cheater – and that’s probably just one of the many myths about infidelity you’ve heard.
Because anyone and everyone has the potential to have an affair, there’s a lot of information on the subject that isn’t exactly concrete, like why someone is unfaithful in the first place.
“Boredom, sexual desire, emotional desire, loving their partner but the relationship is dead, excitement of newness,” mental health counselor, Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC told INSIDER. “The reason for cheating is very different for everyone, and depends on the individual’s personality, history, ability to manage emotional distress, conflict and communicate emotions.”
Most people just assume cheating is about one thing and one thing only: sex. Clearly, that’s not the case, and if we’ve got that wrong, what other so-called “facts” about cheating are actually false? Here are nine myths about cheating debunked.
MYTH: Men cheat more often than women no matter the demographic.
Statistics in the past showed men were more likely to cheat than women, but apparently that’s not necessarily the case these days. People of all gender identities cheat.
“According to recent research by the Institute for Family Studies, men are still, in general, slightly more likely to cheat than women,” Amica Graber, relationship expert for TruthFinder, told INSIDER. “But it’s interesting to note that infidelity amongst women has been growing at a rapid pace since the sexual revolution. Among married adults aged 18 – 29, women are actually more likely to cheat than men.”
MYTH: Cheaters aren’t ever still in love with their significant other.
Being in love with someone is different from loving someone, so here’s where you’ll sometimes catch cheaters on a technicality.
However Clarissa Silva, a behavioural scientist, relationship coach, and the creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method said the idea that all cheaters are void of emotion for their partner is a fallacy at best.
“Only 28% of divorces in the US occur as a result of cheating,” Silva told INSIDER. “The key driver for most cheaters is the ability to not get caught. They aren’t interested in leaving their current set up, they just crave the adrenalin rush that sneaking around gives them.”
MYTH: Cheating is only physical.
Cheating is subjective, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be unfaithful. So while you might associate cheating with sex, your partner might define infidelity as developing an intimate bond with someone.
“A recent study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that men tended to believe that sex alone could be defined as cheating, whereas women also perceived cheating to include flirting, dancing, and emotional engagement,” Graber said. “Another study found that women felt more betrayed by their partners forming emotional connections with a third-person, whereas men felt more betrayed if the relationship was sexual in nature.”
It’s important for you and your significant other to be open with one another from the get-go and discuss where you both draw the line. Because while one person might be thinking in terms of physical intimacy, emotional infidelity can be problematic, too.
“The term ‘micro-cheating’ has become popular in the last couple of years where seemingly innocent behaviours could be considered cheating,” Chlipala told INSIDER. “Each couple has to define cheating and their expectations around what behaviours are acceptable and which are not.”
MYTH: Once a cheater, always a cheater.
It’s understandable why you’d tread cautiously when getting involved with someone who’s cheated in the past, but people do change.
Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany) told INSIDER, “If it’s possible for someone to be an ex-smoker, ex-drinker, or ex-drug user it seems illogical to believe someone who cheated on their mate at age 16 is forever doomed to be a cheater for the rest of his or her life.”
In other words, if your feelings for this person are strong, it might be worth giving them the benefit of the doubt.
MYTH: Cheaters only cheat if they are unhappy in their current relationship.
As confusing as it sounds, some cheaters are actually quite happy with their significant other. In these cases, the cheating is symbolic of something the person is lacking in their relationship, or in life.
“The goal of most cheaters is to hold onto all that is ‘good’ in their primary relationship while addressing their other ‘needs’ on the side,” Darné explained. “Whatever they are unhappy with in the relationship does not rise to the level of being a ‘deal breaker’ in their eyes.”
Some cheaters stray because they feel up against a wall. In other words, cheating gives them a sense of control.
“Some people will cheat because they feel trapped and cheating provides them with a way to exert some form of control and power over their situation,” Silva said. “Feeling trapped in a bad relationship isn’t healthy for anyone. But, it does make you more vulnerable and seeking empathetic people or counsel which often leads to the affair.”
MYTH: Cheaters cheat because they aren’t having sex with their significant other.
In a 2018 infidelity survey performed by Trustify, 31% of cheaters did admit they were unfaithful because of a lack of sexual satisfaction in their primary relationship.
However, Graber told INSIDER, 20% also said their affair was meant to fill a void in which their emotional needs were not being met, 17% sought revenge on their partners, and 14% wanted more attention than their SO was giving them.
“It’s not just about ‘sex,'” Chlipala said. “It’s about being desired and wanted, connection, intimacy, playfulness, and sexual expression. If couples focus only on sex as the act, they miss the point of why the partner cheated in the first place.”
MYTH: Cheaters cheat to get out of their marriage.
Most cheaters don’t go into an affair with the intention of getting caught. Which, Darné suggested, is kind of the point.
“Very few cheaters are looking to replace one relationship with another,” Darné said. “Their goal is to complement whatever they already have.”
MYTH: Cheating is intentional.
“It sounds ridiculous that an affair wasn’t on purpose but my clients didn’t say, ‘Today’s the day I’m going to cheat on my spouse,'” Chlipala, told INSIDER.
“Little by little, they began developing feelings for someone outside of their marriage and maybe rationalized it as ‘It means nothing, we’re just good friends.’ They start sharing more with this other person than their partner, start making negative comparisons and idealizing this other person,” the marriage and family therapist and author of “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love” explained. ‘Over time, there’s an increase in physical affection and sometimes the affair turns physical.”
MYTH: It’s the other person’s fault.
Oftentimes people blame the third party, but at the end of the day, it’s just a rationalization. You’re hurt, and it’s understandable, but keep in mind the person your partner cheated with isn’t committed to you.
“The other man/woman may not know that the cheater is in a relationship or married to someone else. Even if they do know, it takes two to tango and the cheater is the one who is in a relationship and took the step to violate the trust and faith that comes with it,” relationship coach and owner/operator of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong told INSIDER. “In this, it is NOT the other person’s fault. They are culpable but that’s not the same as saying it is their fault.”
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